The pictures you don't want to see?
Sensationalism sells everything (even Marxism)--that seems to be the thinking
behind your bad-taste coverage of the conflict
in former Yugoslavia (March).
The caption proclaimed 'The pictures they don't want you to see'. Photographs
of human heads severed at the neck are the kind of pictures which no one
in their right mind wants to see. But in your quest for sensationalism you
are quite happy to print such images on the front cover of your magazine.
Imagine the traumatic effect it could have on the mind of a young child.
Talk of 'breaking the ban' and challenging censorship is just an excuse.
It may well be the case that there are innocent civilian victims on all
sides of the conflict. But Living Marxism clearly has no empathy
with the sufferings of any of the victims, whatever side they are on or
whichever ethnic group they may be part of.
As far as I'm concerned, it's not a problem when someone like Malcolm McLaren
tries to manipulate the music media - after all, it's only rock'n'roll. But
you are dealing in matters of life and death, and issues of such magnitude
should not become the playthings of editors in search of a 'sexy' story
to make their reputation.
After reading your March issue, I can only conclude that, if Living Marxism
is a progressive publication for daring to publish gross pictures, then
so is the Sunday Sport.
Charlie Cross Nuneaton
I want to offer my praise to Living
Marxism for daring to expose the Western media cover-up of the atrocities
against the Serbs. The uncomfortable truth for those of us on the political
right is that only the far left is eager to know the full story of this
brutal war. Sadder still to think that Living Marxism's courage may
result in a large fine or worse, while worthless journalistic accolades
are heaped on trendy New World Order moralists competing for prime-time
television in Sarajevo.
Steven Vujacic Peckham, London
With reference to Amnesty's stance on
Bosnia which has taken up column inches in Living Marxism recently.
I always find their insistence on their being a neutral organisation hard
to bear when I recall their posture during the Malvinas War of 1982.
I was at that time a member of Amnesty International but withdrew my membership
when they refused to take up Argentinian cases so that their 'neutrality
would not be compromised'.
Apparently, so-called 'neutrality' leads to situations where the prisoners
of 'enemy' nations have to suffer in silence whilst imperialist nations
go to war.
Gareth Clumo Eltham, London
Socialists and Serbs
Tom Carter's letter (March)
is a prime example of everything that is wrong with conventional left-wing
argument today. He starts off by attacking Living Marxism's support
for 'greater Serb hegemonism'. As the March issue makes clear, 'Living
Marxism takes no side in the Yugoslav conflict'. It doesn't take a BA
in South-East European Regional Studies to work out that Carter is inventing
positions which Living Marxism doesn't have. Just for good measure
he tries to lump Mick Hume in with Sir Alfred Sherman to establish guilt
Then it's time for a round of 'spot the socialist'. This is a parlour game
developed in response to events in the former Soviet bloc following 1989.
Instead of working out a response to the carnival of nationalist reaction
and anti-communist hysteria, left wingers cast around for groups of Trotskyists
to support. When none materialised, people like Carter made do with harping
on about the 'socialist traditions' which have proved inadequate to an increasingly
Carter refuses to take the specific pressures of British politics into account,
preferring instead bellicose statements of principle. In particular he seems
to forget the previous two years of vicious anti-Serbian propaganda. As
a result his carping ends up reinforcing the poisonous hysteria which, as
Living Marxism has pointed out, has transformed the Serbs into the
'white niggers' of Europe. With socialists like that, who needs the Tory
G Bishop South Yorkshire
Reading Mary McCaughey's interview with Apache Indian ('An
Apache from Handsworth', February), I was struck by the uncritical and
relativist use of the comments on slack lyrics.
Shabba Ranks was, to my mind, justly criticised by The Word presenter,
Mark Lamarr, for his very straightforward, anti-gay comments. The interview
followed a piece filmed in Jamaica with clips from Buju Banton's massively
popular 'Boom bye-bye'. This song is unashamedly about shooting gays.
Homosexual scapegoats are common in a relatively affluent country such as
Britain, and so I can well understand that the third world poverty of Jamaica
will give rise to desperate prejudices towards 'outcast' groups. Buju Banton
has adapted and articulated these prejudices as a shrewd career move to
escape that poverty. Although this is understandable, it is not something
which I sympathise with or condone.
I would have been happier if McCaughey had even just issued a rider to Apache's
comments that the media concentration on slack lyrics reinforces the idea
that the Caribbean is populated by gun-toting, gay-bashing bandits - an idea
that compounds the moral high ground of Western culture; music included.
However, the interview implied, by omitting to comment, that reactionary
views are valid in a repressed environment. The refusal to critically challenge
the comments of Banton, the explanation by Apache (or the emphasis of Terry
Christian), was an unfortunate and cowardly evasion.
Wanda Nielson Darlington
I accuse Mike from Essex of being Mencap's advertising copywriter (letters,
February). Their latest posters, featuring a grinning Down's Syndrome
kid with the legend 'We think differently about ourselves nowadays', display
the same low horizons masquerading as in-yer-face PC that he uses to attack
Promoting Down's Syndrome as a positive contribution to society may appear
preferable to the kind of 'innocent victim' ads we are more familiar with.
It also neatly avoids the demand for sufficient resources in medical science
to overcome genetic abnormality. In the face of harsh economic realities
it appears that what was a campaign is tightening its belt and settling
back to be a mere representative body.
And this is where we end up. Postmodernist Mike thinks that people with
mental impairments have the right to be different. He also asserts that
there is nothing abnormal about being illiterate or unemployed. Just how
low can those horizons go?
Manda Kent London
I have been dismayed to see Living Marxism continually devalued by
pro-IRA rantings by Mick Kennedy and, most recently, Steven Hepburn (letters,
March 1993). I would like an opportunity (as a nationalist Irishman)
to point out the general inaccuracy of the views aired on Ireland in Living
There is not a war ongoing in Ireland. The IRA/UVF are big businesses,
especially since they met to carve up territory for racketeering and drug-trafficking
(despite public announcements condemning drug dealers).
The IRA do not strike solely at 'legitimate' targets such as army units,
RUC stations et al, but tend to indiscriminately plant bombs which
often kill 'their own people'. They have destroyed countless numbers of
Catholic-owned businesses, killed fathers in front of their families, pensioners
at a Remembrance Day parade, soldiers at a charity fun run, as well as terrorising
'their own people' with their unique brand of justice (steal a car - get
your legs blown off; offend an IRA man - get accused of 'anti-social behaviour'
and be given 24 hours notice to leave Ireland).
Finally, despite the numerous atrocities carried out by the British state,
the IRA are not seen as saviours of 'the people'. Like the UVF, they
represent a tiny minority of an Irish nation sickened by continuous bloodshed
and the killing of innocents. The Catholic clergy, SDLP, Irish government
and people (Sinn Fein have no MPs and poll very poorly) all reject the IRA.
Yet Living Marxism, sitting cosily in London, informs its readership
that the IRA are not to blame for the carnage...which is justified!
Northern Ireland is no longer a state under Unionist hegemony; the Tory
Northern Ireland Office calls the shots now (ask any local MP). Protestants
and Catholics both are fed up with being snubbed by the English Tories - as
are the Scottish, Welsh and Northern English. In the heartfelt words of
U2's Bono: No More.
Dave Burrowes Scotland
The letters in reply to Mick Kennedy's
article and the article itself ('Bomb warnings', December 1992) inadvertently
highlighted the one major weakness of militant republicanism.
When the wish for 'the British to leave Ireland permanently' was expressed,
this in essence was asking the 900 000-odd Protestants in the North to pack
their suitcases and leave as well. Which it must be assumed is also the
desire behind the phrase 'Brits out'.
When England moved en masse hundreds of thousands of Scottish Presbyterian
planters from the Scots lowlands to the north of Ireland during colonisation,
they were in effect, as Seamus Heaney echoes, creating a mini-Britain in
Ireland, for good. So a withdrawal of troops will not lead to the 'de-Britishing'
of the Six Counties (even though it's a beginning). I'm afraid it is deeply
embedded in Protestant culture and is only reinforced by the actions of
Until the author of the article et al recognise that the Protestants'
'Britishness' needs to be considered and not simply ignored (possibly in
terms of dual citizenship on an Andorran model), then they are only fooling
Armchair politicians who suggest cosy, miracle-cure united Irelands, without
considering the Protestants and the deeper cultural/nationality issues,
have little usefulness in the debate on the nationality crisis of all Northern
Thomas Gibson Sunderland
Modernists and Marxists
As the thrust of modern criticism, and especially Marxist criticism, has
been to study texts, I am surprised that the views recently expressed in
your pages have gone along with accepting the Tory concept of a modernist
intellectual elite and its accompanying agenda.
We can now see how so many of the modernists' theories were not to prove
the foundations for new understandings - often they realised this themselves.
But two things remain: first, many works produced in this climate do have
a passionate creative force and social value; secondly, we can derive hope
from seeing how the bonds of social control can be breached. While regretting
their failures in not being good Marxists, we should not write off their
significance and their aesthetic achievements.
Denis Bridge Weymouth
Cheek to speak
In his December 1992 editorial on the increasing threat to jobs and wages,
Mick Hume asks the reader 'so what are you going to do about it?'.
What is he going to do about it? Go out and sell a few magazines? Cheeky
Paul Williams Kennington, London
The Malcolm X factor
Emmanuel Oliver ('Resurrection of Malcolm
X', March) may be right to criticise those making a mint from manipulating
and merchandising the memory of Malcolm X. Selling baseball caps will not
make a revolution; only a mockery of Malcolm's real legacy.
But whatever these people do, it does not diminish Malcolm himself. Every
young Afro-American needs to know the significance of Malcolm X and the
truth about his contribution to our culture. This is equally true for the
youth in Britain. At a time when neither Hollywood nor the rappers can provide
powerful or satisfactory role models, we need the example of Malcolm X and
we have a right to know about him.
Or perhaps Oliver thinks that our youth would be better off imitating Mike
PJ Coles Los Angeles, USA
Before I saw the film, I thought Emmanuel
Oliver was probably right to puncture the rhetoric and the hype surrounding
Spike Lee's Malcolm X. Now that I have seen it, I feel that Oliver
was wrong on at least one count. He forgot to mention that this is one lousy
Rick Lamberton Birmingham
The Tokyo Living Marxism readers' group is being reconvened. Those
wanting to take part should contact Lynn Robson on Tokyo 03-5388-6828.
Reproduced from Living Marxism issue 54, April 1993